Agenda, Workplan, Documents and Rules of Procedure

Adopting an agenda

General Assembly Adopts Agenda General Assembly Adopts Agenda

The adoption of the agenda in the plenary meeting of the GA is usually a formality, confirming the outcome of long preparations and consultations undertaken ahead of the conference. All participants who want a successful conference want the agenda adopted with as little discussion or division as possible.

The steps for adopting an the agenda for each GA session are as follows:

1. A “Preliminary list of items to be included in the provisional agenda of the General Assembly” is issued early in the year (usually February).

2. An “Annotated version of the preliminary list of items to be included in the provisional agenda of the General Assembly” is circulated in mid-June. This gives the history of each item proposed for inclusion on the agenda, lists selected documents from the previous sessions and projects major documents (reports, etc.) to be submitted for discussion under the individual items.

3.  A “Provisional agenda of the xxth annual session of the GA” is issued in July and lists all new items that have been proposed up to sixty days before the opening of the session.

4. A “Supplementary list of items proposed for inclusion in the agenda” comes out in mid-August and includes all new items that have been proposed after the issuance of the provisional agenda and up to thirty days before the opening of the session. Issued thirty days before the opening of the session.

5. A draft agenda, included in the “Memorandum of the Secretary-General on the Organization of the xxth regular session of the General Assembly, adoption of the agenda and allocation of items” is submitted to the General Committee in mid-September and is the basis for its deliberations. Some of the listed items may be deleted or deferred.

6. The “Report of the General Committee” (based on the Memorandum of the Secretary-General) includes recommendations on the items to be included in the agenda, on the allocation of items to the Plenary or the Main Committees and on organizational aspects of the GA session.

7.  The “Agenda of the xxth session of the GA”, is adopted by the Plenary and becomes the basis for the work of the GA session. Additions made after the adoption are issued as Addenda to the Agenda.

8. The “Allocation of agenda items for the xxth session of the GA” details the final allocation of items to the Plenary or one of the Main Committees based on the recommendations of the General Committee. Changes or additions made after the adoption are issued as Corrigenda or Addenda to the Agenda.

The Programme of Work and Agenda page on the UN General Assembly website lists all the documents associated to this process. The number of items included in the GA agenda varies from session to session. The agenda for the 67th session included 170 items.

How it might be done at a MUN conference:  Normally the General Assembly and ECOSOC Affairs Division (GAEAD) drafts the GA agenda on behalf of the Secretary-General. Within the context of a MUN simulation, the MUN Secretariat should draft the agenda under the leadership of the Secretary-General and then submit it to the MUN GA General Committee. After reviewing the draft agenda, the General Committee offers its recommendations as to which items it thinks the General Assembly should adopt, which items should be allocated to each committee and the order in which they should be addressed. These recommendations are included in a “Report of the General Committee” for adoption during the opening Plenary of the GA.

Defining a Work program

The next area of importance that needs to be discussed is the organization of work. Once the items have been allocated to the Plenary and GA Main Committees, a programme of work must be prepared. The organization of work essentially consists of a timetable in which the work will have to be performed (e.g., how much time should be spent debating each item on the agenda, how long should speakers be allowed to speak, how much time should be scheduled to take action on resolutions that have been tabled) including the scheduling of any special events (e.g., when substantive experts should be invited to speak to the delegates, etc.) While the General Committee puts together the Programme of Work for Plenary meetings of the GA, the Bureaus do the same for work carried out within each Committee with the assistance of the Secretariat and in consultation with delegations.

Once the programme of work has been informally agreed, it will be submitted to the delegates at the opening session. Thereafter it is an important reference for all delegates.

How it might be done at a MUN conference: Normally the General Assembly and ECOSOC Affairs Division (GAEAD) drafts the Programme of Work for each Committee. Within the context of a MUN simulation, the Secretary of each Committee can draft the Programme of Work with assistance from other members of the Bureau.

Preparing Documents

In order to carry out the Programme of Work, delegates need to access documents related to each agenda item.  These documents might include Secretary-General reports on the agenda items being discussed, letters submitted by Member States on the agenda item, substantive reports written by UN experts, the programme of work itself, etc.  All such documents need to be available for ready reference by delegates.

How it might be done at a MUN conference: Once the provisional agenda has been discussed by the General Committee and its recommendations have been determined, the MUN Secretariat (i.e., the Secretary-General and USGs) should prepare Secretary-General reports on each agenda item. These reports should provide a detailed history of the agenda item including actions the UN has already taken.  These reports will be used by the delegates as a resource to assist them in preparing their Position Papers.

In many cases, secretariats maintain a website from which documents can be downloaded.  Such websites need to be monitored regularly as new documents are posted there.

UN Document Symbols

Documents issued by the Secretariat are identified by symbols in a scheme that delegates will have to learn. The system for identifying documents should mirror what is used at the UN.

The first component of a symbol indicates the organ to which the document is submitted or the organ that is issuing the document, e.g.
A/-General Assembly
S/-Security Council
E/-Economic and Social Council
A number of document symbols include sessional or year components following the body elements.
General AssemblysessionA/67/99
Security CouncilyearS/2013/99
Economic and Social councilyearE/2013/99
The final component of the symbol is the sequential number assigned to the document in the series.

For example, the agenda of the 67th session of the General Assembly would be labeled as follows:


‘A’ signifies that it is a General Assembly document; ‘67’ signifies which GA session it is; and ‘251’ is the number assigned to the document.

For more information, see the page on UN Document Symbols. A MUN programme should use the same format for its documents and modify it accordingly.


Choosing the appropriate Rules of Procedure

The recommended Rules of Procedure for use by MUN Programmes simulating the General Assembly can be found on the Global Model UN website.  They are based on the actual Rules of Procedure used at the UN.  Almost all the simulations of the General Assembly that are organized around the world use parliamentary rules of procedure that are very different from what is used at the UN.  We strongly recommend that the Rules of Procedure included in this guide be used instead of what is currently being used.

The Rules of Procedure play a critical role in making sure that the deliberations that take place during formal meetings be carried in the most efficient way possible.  The Rules of Procedure at MUN conferences are more complex and figure prominently during meetings. At the UN, the rules are simpler and invoked less frequently. This detracts from the work that needs to be carried out. By adopting the Rules of Procedure suggested in this manual, meetings should be easier to manage and the Programme of Work completed in a more efficient manner.